Thanks to the catalytic events since 2020 and a broader reorienting from "pipeline" and "conversion" to "revenue generation," the dynamics between sales and marketing — the people and their tech stacks — will evolve in 2023.
I invited three industry pros to weigh in with rapid-fire insights to my questions on what’s next in sales tech and tried to analyze how they will impact marketers.
But first, here are three emerging sales tech themes to set the context:
1. Integrating Sales Tech and Martech Stacks for More Powerful Revenue Outcomes
The time for stand-alone, siloed tools is gone. But rationalization today is not so much about consolidating or right-sizing tech tools as it is about the right connections and integrations between them. Getting it right can be a real competitive advantage.
Seth Marrs, a principal analyst at Forrester, suggests that integrating seller execution tools like sales engagement or revenue ops and intelligence (RO&I) platforms to content or sales enablement platforms can push content recommendations at the most relevant point in the buyer’s journey and deliver tangible improvements.
Takeaway for marketers: For any tech stack, the theme for 2023 is lean. Doing more with less. Better integrated stacks will be crucial to delivering a more efficient and effective buyer experience.
The opportunity is in aligning not just the sales and marketing teams, but the tech stacks as well. Asking questions to identify current gaps is a good starting point. For example, if content marketing is central to your B2B buyer’s journey, which sales tools can better help salespeople deliver more value-led sales engagement with content? Are inbound leads being allocated to email nurture workflows and salespeople based on how close they are to a decision? How can better aligned sales and martech stacks speed up conversions and improve the quality and value of buyer engagement? Do the attribution systems account for this more diffused and nonlinear buying journey?
Related Article: Are You Measuring Your Martech Correctly? Really?
2. Harnessing Conversational Intelligence
Nearly half (49%) of B2B buyers are now millennials or Generation Z. Mary Shea, vice president and global innovation evangelist at sales execution platform Outreach explains that these new buyers prefer to interact via digital channels, with buyers preferring to visit the vendor's website (60%), attend a webinar hosted by the vendor (55%), listen to a vendor-hosted podcast (47)%, and get content assets on social media (68%) before meeting a seller in person.
That’s why "conversational intelligence" — AI-powered tools that can record and analyze all types of interactions (human and nonhuman) across marketing, sales and customer service workflows; mine insights from them; and directly upload them into the marketing GTM, CRM and other revenue ops systems; are becoming so significant to the business.
Takeaway for marketers: The endgame with tracking interactions is to analyze the data and insights and take the right actions for better results. While baking AI-powered conversational intelligence into martech and sales tech can multiply performance across the board, the challenge is to streamline the insights and use them smartly between sales and marketing for smoother, faster and more agile execution of revenue-generating efforts.
Related Article: Drive Growth by Improving Your Customer Experience Strategy
3. More Sales Tech = Fewer Sales People?
Smarter sales tech is expected to lead to smaller and more agile sales teams. Research commissioned by Outreach found 58% of 550 B2B leaders surveyed in France, Germany, the UK and the US expect to have the same or less or less personnel on their sales teams to achieve their revenue goals in the upcoming fiscal year.
Perhaps as a corollary, 76% of B2B leaders said they’re already increasing or planning to increase their investments in innovative sales technologies that drive efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, 68% of respondents are actively redeploying or planning to deploy savings from sales headcount to invest in innovative sales tech. But it’s not just the employers as 55% of respondents evaluated a company’s investments in efficiency-boosting sales tech when deciding whether to join them as a salesperson.
Hanneke Vogels, sales technology director at Europe-based sales tech selection and implementation firm Stryfes, agrees that the powerful sales tech available today helps fewer people do more. Given the astounding rate at which even established CRM vendors are adding AI-powered functionalities, though, Vogels predicts two emerging roles in the sales organization: Tech-savvy inside sales and people who control the outreach and inbound at a larger scale than ever before, using technology.
Sales tech officers: The new functional administrators of sales tech tools; these professionals will sit in sales enablement departments or RevOps team and will enhance sales outcomes with their in-depth knowledge of IT and sales.
Takeaway for marketers: Sales teams are evolving. Marketers can expect to work with more tech-savvy, efficient and data-driven sales teams than ever before. How do they need to evolve to best complement this more value-focused sales team? Diving into these new team dynamics will impact revenue results today and help CMOs and CSOs build optimal teams and tech stacks to deliver results through the expected period of recession and beyond.
And now, as promised, here are three expert rapid-fire insights on sales tech trends, so revenue-led marketers know what to expect in 2023.
What is the one under-the-radar or not-so-obvious sales tech-led trend that will impact revenue generation in 2023?
Seth Marrs, principal analyst, Forrester: “The analysis of buyer-seller conversations is the art of sales. Every nuance can now be analyzed and understood in a way that allows for better coaching and insights in previously invisible areas.”
Mary Shea, VP, global innovation evangelist at Outreach.io: “Account executives (AEs) will need to prospect. Buyer budgets will continue to shrink, even as buyers will do more of their own research. Sales Development Reps (SDRs) will become less necessary. AE’s will need to quickly develop prospecting skills, create pipelines and close deals with the right sales tech.”
Hanneke Vogels, sales technology director at Stryfes: “Speeding up the end of the funnel, from offer tooling, contracting and handover to delivery. Sales teams will focus more on connecting tools rather than adding more tools.”
What is the one myth about sales tech you would like to see busted in 2023?
Seth: “That sellers are the best source of insights into sales tech systems. In reality, sellers should engage with buyers, and sales tech should be designed to capture all of those interactions automatically. Maximizing value from sales tech is not possible until this happens.”
Mary: “The myth I want to put to bed is that an amalgamation of point solutions is the best way to meet the demands of the revenue organization. Employees spend about 9 hours a week on the "toggle tax" — the time wasted going back and forth between apps. Instead of negotiating with various vendors, lean into a single partner for the best value and smoothest data flows.”
Hanneke: “That sales tech is only for lead generation.”
What is your top tip for sales leaders to fill capability gaps and optimize their sales tech stack for 2023?
Seth: “Understand your process before buying technology. Too often, technology is purchased without an understanding of how to integrate it into their current sales process. This leads to poor adoption and limited value.”
Mary: “Consolidate as many of your sales tech point solutions into a ‘sales execution platform’ to help every member of the revenue organization operate more effectively and efficiently.
Hanneke: “Find your No. 1 'time bleeder' and your No. 1 'conversion killer' in the sales process and fix that with the right sales tech.”
What the Trends Mean for Marketers in a Nutshell
It’s time to reassess how marketing and sales can work together to best facilitate the nonlinear, diffused, omnichannel buyer journey.
Set up processes that are agile enough to cut through silos and smart enough to leverage AI-powered conversational insights for optimal revenue-generation workflows. Focus not just on intrastack but interstack connectivity and integration to elevate marketing and sales alignment and streamline the buyer experience.